Voter ID Laws Will Make It Harder for Trans People to Vote in the Midterms

Due to voter ID laws, it may be difficult for more than 200,000 transgender Americans who are eligible to vote to cast a ballot in next year’s midterm elections. according to a recent report from a think tank that Researches on gender identity law, sexual orientation, and public policy.

The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law released a report last month that estimated these people could be challenged in elections by poll workers or other election officials, because their voter registration information is not compatible with their ID or any other documentation.

This figure could mean that more than 64,000 transgender individuals may face additional barriers, as they live or work in states with strict ID requirements. These votes might not be counted if the voter is able to provide acceptable information later.

“As we think about election policies and the rules that we put around how and where people vote — and especially when the topic of voter ID comes up — I think it’s important to separate out the stated intent of these laws and what their actual impact is,” said Kathryn K. O’Neill, a policy analyst at the Williams Institute and one of the report’s authors.

The report outlines the challenges that transgender people face when trying to participate in everyday life. The process for obtaining identification documents that reflect a person’s correct name and gender marker can vary by state, creating an uneven system.

Thirty-five states require voters to show a form of identification to vote. Some states (18) require photo IDs, while others (17) allow non-photo IDs. Some states allow voters to present other identification information, like a utility bill or a bank statement, if they don’t have ID to vote, and others require voters to cast a provisional ballot.

In 2021, Jey’nce Poindexter of Michigan reached out to an attorney about the cost of legally changing her name.

Poindexter, a community organizer and transgender woman, wanted to see official paperwork that reflected her gender identity. Poindexter wanted to purchase property. She wanted to be able to vote without being asked about mismatched identity information. (Michigan requires photo ID to vote. The Williams Institute, however, considers the state to have an unstrict law. This allows a voter to sign an affidavit without ID.

Poindexter did not need to have any additional identification documents.

“It may be trivial to someone else. But I pay taxes. I pay my bills. I manage and manage my household. I’m there for my family. So if all of these ways lead up to humanity, and to being a human being — I’m certainly having documentation and ID and personal documents align with my presentation,” she told The 19th. “That means the world to me.”

Poindexter reached out to an attorney, who provided a high-end estimate of $3,600 for a retainer. Additional fees were required for court appearances or filings.

“I just thought that was ridiculous,” she said.

Most states and the District of Columbia require voter identification to match a legal name. some states To update the gender marker on a birth record, you will need to provide proof of gender affirmation surgery. In others, a person may be required to publish an announcement in the newspaper to change their name — a practice that advocates worry can put a person at risk of physical harm or harassment.

According to an estimate, 33% of trans people have reported verbal harassment if they show identification that is not in line with their gender presentation. HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that conducts voter register drives.

Since 2012, the Williams Institute has been tracking the potential impact of voter ID laws upon trans people every election year. The Williams Institute has been tracking the potential impact of voter ID laws on trans people every election year since 2012. However, its methodology for measuring it has changed. This includes how it categorizes different states. It is difficult to compare this report with previous ones.

“The biggest change over time in this field has been data availability. It’s the constant issue,” O’Neill said. “It’s something that has been getting a lot better recently.”

Poindexter had already started to look into the possibility of a legal name change in 2020. but the pandemic paused her efforts. After her experience with the lawyer, she decided she could start the process again herself. Through her community, she was connected to someone from VoteRiders. This nonpartisan nonprofit organization helps people get identification to vote. Poindexter has been assisted with paperwork by an organizer of the group.

Poindexter, who plans on voting by absentee ballot for this year, declined more details about her case in order to minimize the possibility of harassment. She expressed gratitude for VoteRiders but also expressed concern for others who may not be able to get a second view on potential legal costs.

“I see how it would intimidate another young lady or young man or person, period,” she said.

Lauren Kunis is the CEO and executive Director of VoteRiders. She stated that the group focuses on voter ID education, and voter ID assistance. This election cycle, they’re focused on eight states with voter ID laws or pending ID policy, or that they deem competitive: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

They can also provide pro bono legal support to those who need it to change their name or update their gender marker in order to obtain identification. The group also pays for rides to and from identification-issuing offices.

“We want to make sure that any legal or bureaucratic or financial barrier that a voter might face in obtaining an acceptable ID is removed and they’re able to make their voices heard at the polls,” Kunis said.

This applies to trans people and others who may face paperwork obstacles. According to the group, voter ID laws have adisproportionate impact on women as many people change their names when they get married. That means they can have conflicting name information on a driver’s license or voter registration.

Seventy percent of women are estimated to change their names when they get married,” she said. “So they face a lot of challenges when the ID on their driver’s license that they present at the poll doesn’t match the name on their voter registration from when they were 18 years old.”

The Williams Institute report cites research that indicates trans people of colour, who are older, homeless, and have lower incomes, are less likely to have identity.

However, it is still difficult to quantify the impact of voter ID laws upon voter turnout have been mixed, in part because many studies have occurred before states enacted the strictest kind of identification requirements — often rules that require photo ID with few or no alternatives available. Some rules for voter identification are flexible enough that voters may still be eligible to vote even if they don’t have identification.

Most importantly, the effect of voter identification laws on transgender people has not been closely examined. Kunis from VoteRiders stated that her two-dozen staff travel across the country to talk to people about voter identification every day.

“What we know through the feedback that we get from the communities we serve is that these laws confuse voters, they intimidate them, and they deter them from casting a ballot,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that’s hard to quantify.”